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This chapter has focused on Faith and Morality. As regards the worship dimension of these moral themes..

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These two Sacraments. Unfortunately, the mention of his relative's name renewed his recollection of what he considered as extreme presumption in the Knight of the Leopard, even when he stood high in the rolls of chivalry, but which, in his present condition, appeared an insult sufficient to drive the fiery monarch into a frenzy of passion. Schuster's excellent Bible History is also in universal use, and is arranged by means of different type and signs so as to be accommodated to the three stages of the catechism ref.

A king's son, though with the bar sinister on his shield, is at least a match for this marmozet of a Marquis. This village [life] of yours is balanced on the lotus leaf and your lifespan is just alike a drop of water running down that leaf, which may fall any minute.

It is superlative; we give God the best of our love, the cream of it. Rated 4. Posted in Catechisms. Recent Posts. Rather, I am thinking of the kind of cultural mindset that science helps to cultivate and reinforce. Science, by its very nature, assumes that the present is better than the past and the future will be better than the present.

Again, this is not in itself a bad thing.

The School of Charity: Meditations on the Christian Creed

It is surely part of what drives the laudable curiosity that motivates scientists and leads to major breakthroughs; and there is much evidence that this—the fact the present is better than the past—is, indeed, the case. As one who teaches history, I am often asked by students in which period of history I would most have enjoyed living.

My answer is simple and straightforward: this one, the here and now. By and large, in areas where it is relevant, science has made the world a better place. The evidence is not all one way, however: the Holocaust, for example, is one instance where science was clearly used to destroy rather than enhance life, and that on a huge scale.

But, by and large, science has brought with it huge gains, from medicine to dishwashers. The problem is that science also comes loaded with a certain philosophical bias, and that is, as stated above, that the past is inferior to the present. It has a built-in narrative of progress, whereby everything—or at least almost everything—just keeps getting better; and the problem is that this tends to inculcate a broader cultural attitude that applies the same kind of expectation in other areas.

Throw concepts like evolution into the mix, and you have a gravitational pull within the culture toward the future, built on the assumed inferiority of the past. This narrative of scientific progress instills a belief not simply in the superiority of the present in relation to the past but also in its uniqueness.

This time in which we live has so much more knowledge, displays so much more sophistication, and is so much more complicated than the past.

The School of Charity: Meditations on the Christian Creed

Thus that past is consequently of no real use in addressing the problems or issues of the present, so great is the difference between them. One would not, for example, use a horse and cart to transport fuel from an oil refinery to a petrol station. Nor would one today consult a seventeenth-century textbook on surgery to find out how to remove a burst appendix. So why would one turn to some confession written in the fourth or the seventeenth century to find a summary guide to what Christians today should believe?

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Some years ago, I was exposed to precisely this attitude while teaching a class on the ancient church. At some point, I mentioned that a certain professor from another institution was going to be visiting campus to deliver some lectures on the Westminster Standards, that is, the Confession and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. I asked her if she had read these apparently irrelevant documents recently. She said she had not. I then pointed out to her that these documents had been regarded by many people as vital and vibrant expressions of the Christian faith since their composition.

Given this, and their connection to historic traditions and trajectories of church life and Christian thought, I suggested with every ounce of tact and gentleness I could muster that she might perhaps better ask herself not so much what relevance they have to her ministry but what relevance her ministry had to the church. Her assumption was simple: the past could not really speak in any meaningful way to the present. She was truly a child of the scientific age.

Closely related to the role of science in cultivating an attitude that downgrades the importance of the past is that of technology. A simple example should make this point clear. In what is now her living room, there is a stone fireplace and, in that fireplace, there are a series of small holes, roughly an inch in diameter, now plugged with wood, which indicate where the weaver would have had his loom. It is easy to imagine a scene in the early nineteenth century in which the weaver was hard at work making cloth when one of his children wandered into the room and inquired as to what exactly he was doing.

No doubt, the weaver would have sat the child down and explained how the loom operated, how the shuttle carried the woolen thread from one side to the other and slowly but surely formed a sheet of fabric. The flow of knowledge from the older generation to the younger was clear; this was no doubt repeated many times in preindustrial societies around the world, where children typically grew up to follow in the footsteps of their parents and were thus more or less apprenticed to their parents from an early age.

Now, jump forward nearly two hundred years to a scene in the same room. In walks my niece and asks what I am trying to do. After I explain to her what is going on, she sighs, rolls her eyes, picks up the remote control, and with what seems to me to be two touches of the buttons, has the machine set up to record the match.

With a shake of her head, she walks back into the kitchen. Notice what has happened here, and what the significance of these two encounters is: the flow of knowledge has been reversed.

No longer is the younger dependent upon the older; rather, the older is dependent upon the younger. Technology, because it is constantly and rapidly changing, inevitably favors those who have been brought up with it, and who have the kind of young, agile minds that develop new skills quickly and easily. You cannot easily teach a middle-aged historian, any more than an old dog, new tricks; and that means that technology will always favor the young. This is just one anecdote and, as my secretary will tell you, I am among the more—ahem—technologically challenged men of my generation; but the general point is a good one.

The technological world, particularly given the rapidity with which it is constantly changing, creates an environment where the assumption is that older people are going to be dependent upon the younger. Taken by itself, perhaps, this might not be so significant; but combined with the impact of science as a whole upon cultural attitudes, it undoubtedly plays its role in the bias against age, and thus against the past, which is a hallmark of the modern world and which is not incidental in the general antipathy among Christians for creeds and confessions.

A third cultural force that militates against respect for the past is consumerism. As with science, there is much that could be said here, but I will restrict myself to the most salient aspects of the phenomenon. This definition is reasonably helpful but misses one key aspect of the phenomenon: it is not just the attachment to material things, it is also the need for constant acquisition of the same.


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Life is enriched not simply by possessing goods but by the process of acquiring them; consumerism is as much a function of boredom as it is of crass materialism. What has this to do with rejection of the past? Simply this: consumerism is predicated on the idea that life can be fulfilling through acquiring something in the future that one does not have in the present.


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This manifests itself in the whole strategic nature of marketing. For example, every time you switch on your television set, you are bombarded with advertisements that may be for a variety of different goods and services but that all preach basically the same message: what you have now is not enough for happiness; you need something else, something new, in order to find true fulfillment. I believe that this reinforces fundamentally negative attitudes toward the past. Think for a moment: how many readers of this book are wearing clothes they bought ten years ago?

How many are using computers they bought five years ago? Or driving automobiles more than fifteen years old? With the exception of vintage car collectors, the economically poor, and those with absolutely no fashion sense, most readers will probably respond in the negative to at least one, if not all three, of these questions.

Yet when we ask why this is the case, there is no sensible answer. We can put a man on the moon, so we could probably make an automobile that lasts for fifty years; most of us do little on computers that could not have been done on the machines we owned five years ago; and we all throw away clothes that still fit us and are quite presentable. So why the need for the new?

A number of factors influence this kind of behavior. If that were done, then the manufacturer would likely be out of business within a decade as the market became saturated. Such is a possible, but actually unlikely, scenario. Developments in technology mean that longevity will not be the only factor driving the market. Efficiency, for example, or enhanced and multiplied functions might well create a continuing need for more goods. Aesthetics also play a role; the ability to market goods based on aesthetics and image has proved powerful. Remember the cool, sleek look that Apple computers developed at one point?

That gave them a clear edge over their rivals. Second, and related to the first point, we see in the consumer economy a coalescence of aesthetics and a bias to the young in the creation of the so-called youth market, and the closely related marketing of youth to older types like myself.